Ron Coomer has seen opening day from a couple of different perspectives.
As a player, for sure. The Lockport graduate enjoyed a nine-season major league career, most of which included a spot on an opening day roster.
These days, he is a broadcaster. He will begin his fifth season in the Cubs’ radio booth with Pat Hughes on Thursday as the North Siders open against the Marlins in Miami.
As if that isn’t enough to get the juices flowing, he and his partners also got their restaurant in Lockport up and running this week. Coom’s Corner Sports Grill is located in the building of the former Iron Horse Saloon (1225 E. Ninth St., just west of Interstate 355). So, life has been a whirlwind.
“Everybody was nervous the first day, worried and nervous,” Coomer said Wednesday morning from Miami, just before beginning some serious homework in preparation for Thursday’s opener. “We wanted to get our sea legs. All of a sudden the lights go on and you’re preparing meals for everyone. But it was incredible. It was packed all night.
“Pete Fera, one of my old coaches in Homer, was the first one who walked in the door. That was fitting. Terry Ziemke, one of my Lockport coaches, was there. It is neat to have Little Leaguers in uniform. Kids came in Lockport uniforms after their game. Old Lockport buddies were there remembering how good we used to be years ago.”
Coomer’s partners in the restaurant venture are Will County coroner Pat O’Neil, Coomer’s former Lockport teammate Bob Mondrella and Mondrella’s older brother Jim.
“We had a tasting party for friends and family last Thursday,” Coomer said. “That was fun. We didn’t advertise the opening Monday, just word of mouth and people on social media, and my wife Paula and Jenny O’Neil, Pat’s wife, stayed busy all night.”
The Cubs open the season on a 10-game road trip that will take them to Cincinnati and Milwaukee following their Easter weekend in Miami. The home opener is April 9. Whenever they’re home, Coomer plans to be at the restaurant on a regular basis.
“My goal is to make myself available in town,” Coomer said. “I want the restaurant to be a place people like to hang out. It’s a great place to watch sports, too, like the Loyola game Saturday.”
Meanwhile, Coomer is ready to get started in Miami.
“I’ll see my old teammate, Derek Jeter, as an owner, and [Marlins manager] Don Mattingly, too,” he said. “And just sitting next to Pat [Hughes] for a fifth opening day, that’s special.
“You always have butterflies on Opening Day. I even had butterflies the first game I did this spring, and it wasn’t even on the air, it was a dot-com game. Opening Day is bigger than other days in a way, even though we play 162 games. Fans look at it differently from an anticipation standpoint. I like all the pomp and circumstance because it’s a celebration of baseball being such a big deal. And I also like it to be over so we can settle into our day-to-day routine. So I like both sides of it.”
Coomer said nothing that happened in the spring to change his feelings on the Cubs, whose season-opening road trip is the club’s longest in more than a century.
“The Cubs are ready for the new season, for sure,” he said. “This is a really good team, and it will be for years to come. Anthony [Rizzo] is 28 and he is the oldest guy among the core players. A nucleus with young guys like [Kyle] Schwarber, [Ian] Happ, [Willson] Contreras, [Kris] Bryant, Addison Russell and Javy Baez, this is one of the best teams I have seen.
“The Yankees of the 1990s and early 2000s were the best of that era. They won four titles. Now, will the Cubs do that? I don’t know, but they will be good for a long time.”
And while the Cubs are thrilling their fans all season, Coomer will be at Coom’s Corner as often as his schedule will allow. He’ll talk Cubs, relive the old days in Lockport and discuss anything else that customers have on their minds.
As he said, “My goal is to make myself available.”
• Dick Goss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.